Gallery: A field-guide to NYC’s internet infrastructure
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Ingrid Burrington explains the symbols on a manhole cover
Burrington: Manhole for Empire City Subway, a company formed in 1891 to manage NYC’s underground communication infrastructure.
In New York City, the internet is everywhere. Literally. Wi-Fi, emanating from refurbished phone booths, fills the air between skyscrapers, spraypainted symbols expose wire under the sidewalk, and gaping holes at busy intersections reveal caverns of cables.
New York is a global cultural, communication, and technological hub. The technologies that power the city’s pulse are, said author Ingrid Burrington, “hiding in plain sight.” In Networks of New York, a book her publisher calls a “field guide to urban internet infrastructure,” the Brooklyn-based author deciphers mysterious symbols on the street and in the air that city-dwellers briskly pass every day.
To learn about the connected city, Burrington interviewed a number of the network engineers who maintain the city’s network. “Different types of network administrators have different types of culture,” she explained. “Verizon street workers installing fiber are different from data center workers. But they all have cool stories about how the internet works, from their perspective.”
SEE: Interview questions: Wireless network engineer (Tech Pro Research report)
The book also contains several dozen images and interpretative explanations of network infrastructure on the street and in the air. In the book, Burrington explores NYPD’s city-wide surveillance system, Wall Street’s high-speed financial networks, and lower Manhattan’s massive data center.
Burrington’s background is rooted in technology culture. She’s reported about the web for The Atlantic, The Nation, and ProPublica, and her internet-influenced art has been displayed at galleries in New York, Tokyo, and Leipzig. “I’m curious about interconnected systems,” she said, “and New York is kind of the ultimate interconnected system.”
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Networks of New York author Ingrid Burrington
NYC wireless networking
Burrington: A traffic control box equipped with a small wireless router connecting it to NYCWin, a citywide wireless network.
NYC networking maintenance
NYC street-level infrastructure
NYC NYPD surveillance
NYC skyline networking
NYC color-coded street markings
Burrington: Color-coded spray-paint markings for underground utility ducts [yellow is for gas, orange for telecoms].
NYC street symbols
NYC wireless transmitter
Time Warner manhole cover
Burrington: Getting a custom manhole is apparently kind of a big deal for telecoms. They take a lot of pride in it.